There is mounting scientific evidence that cancer cells lead intricate social lives and that their social behavior often resembles the behavior of social bacteria. For example, this colony of bacteria contains pioneer cells that pave the way for colony expansion in the same way that specialized cancer cells prepare for metastasis.

Credit: Eshel Ben-Jacob/Tel Aviv University

Source: Experts propose ‘cyber war’ on cancer (Rice University)

More at ScienceDirect

A Dialogue with Taxonomy

Jordan Clayton’s most recent body of work focuses on the microbiology available from the artist’s own body. As Clayton describes his artistic process for this series: “I explore microscope imagery of single-celled organisms, bacterium, viruses, and fungus, which are then conceptualized into abstractions that nuance representation.” The artist uses what he describes as visual quantification - painting or drawing used as a way to record raw data from observation. 

As for the inspiration, Clayton gathers his bacteria colonies from his own body. The harmless samples aim to create a more personal connection between the artist and his work, and contrast with his previous explorations into decay and pandemics. His use of abstraction with these subjects explores the possibility of infinite growth. As he states: “My bacterial colonies could, in theory be in any state of growth or size but are infinitely indeterminate until observed on a microscopic scale.” By observing and recording these processes, Clayton makes them real.


Amazing Art, from Colonies of Bacteria by Professor Eshel Ben Jacob

Tel Aviv University physicist Eshel Ben Jacob studies one visually stunning result of this phenomenon: the growth patterns bacteria form in response to laboratory-imposes stresses. Ben Jacob subjects his petri-dish colonies to such challenges as borderline starvation and infusions of noxious chemicals, just the kinds of threats that microorganisms must survive in nature. The colors and shading of his images represent artistic license, but the underlying images are of actual colonies of tens of billions of organisms.

In response to Septrin antibiotic, for example, colonies of Paenibacillus dedritiformis bacteria secrete “come-hither” signals that cause their members to drawer closer together and form large vortices. This increases the colony’s ability to dilute the antibiotic with the lubricating fluid secreted by individual microbes. By contrast, when faced with a sparcity of food, the colony reorganizes into narrow, straight branches that maximize contact with the limited nutrients in its environment.

Here’s the link to Ben Jacob’s gallery of images and an introduction to his ideas on the foundation of cognition in bacteriaVia Jessica Snyder

Ok, but what if...

Humans are actually he first race in the galaxy to get to space travel. So we go out into space and expect to find a ton of neat alien tech, and instead get  colony of bacteria and some strange creatures still in the stone age.

Antibiotic Resistance: Mechanisms and Outlook

The current issue of antibiotic resistance is being referred to as a ‘perfect storm’, as research on the subject has declined while the amount and severity of multidrug resistance have increased. Antibiotics are an integral part of modern medicine and have safeguarded humans from bacterial diseases for decades. However, due to rapid reproduction rates and flexibility in receiving genetic material, bacteria have quickly evolved resistance to many of the available antibiotics. In the past decade, efforts have been made to slow the development of resistant strains of bacteria.

The creation of drug-resistant bacterial strains is sometimes quite simple. In order to illustrate the process, let’s look at a scenario. Within a colony of bacteria, only a few cells actually possess the gene or trait for resistance. If a person develops a bacterial infection, it is usually treated by antibiotics. When the bacterial infection is treated by antibiotics, the cells that possess resistance to the antibiotic will not be eliminated. Then, those bacteria reproduce rapidly and pass the resistant trait to their offspring. However, this, referred to as vertical gene transfer, is only one process by which resistance can be conferred.

The issue gets a bit more complicated when horizontal gene transfer mechanisms like bacterial conjugation, transformation, and transduction make it possible for bacteria to receive genes from many different sources. Bacterial conjugation facilitates the transfer of genetic material between two bacteria through direct contact. The bacteria are linked and the donor bacterium passes genetic material in the form of a plasmid, DNA that isn’t part of the organism’s chromosome(s). Bacterial transformation occurs when bacteria can incorporate genetic material from the environment or from outside sources into its own genetic code. Transduction adds a whole new group of organisms into the problem – viruses. When bacteriophages (viruses that replicate in bacteria) go from one bacterium to another, occasionally antibiotic resistance genes get taken along for the ride.

The number of bacteria in the world and the variety of mechanisms they use to grab new genetic material make it easy for antibiotic resistance to become a big issue for us. After a bacterial infection evolves resistance, the treatment options for the disease become very limited and expensive. In the case of resistant bacteria, doctors will administer stronger antibiotics, which are known as second or third generation, or a mix of antibiotics. However, in the case of multidrug-resistant bacteria, treatment is often ineffective, especially when the bacteria have evolved resistance to the strongest available antibiotics.

While research continues into developing better, stronger antibiotics, consumers can take several measures to help stop the effects of antibiotic resistance. When prescribed antibiotics, taking the full course of medicine enables the drug to function at its highest potential and will help eliminate the possibility of bacteria surviving the antibiotic.

References and further reading:

  1. Costerton, J.W., Stewart, P.S., & Greenberg, E.P. (1999). Bacterial biofilms: a common cause of persistent infections.Science, 284(5418): 1318-1322.
  2. Fard, R.M.N., Barton, M.D., & Heuzenroeder, M.W. (2011). Bacteriophage-mediated transduction of antibiotic resistance in enterococci. Letters in Applied Microbiology, 52(6): 559-564.
  3. Levy, S.B. (2002). Factors impacting on the problem of antibiotic resistance. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, 49(1): 25-30.
  4. Severini, C., & Menegon, M. (2015). Resistance to antimalarial drugs: an endless world war against Plasmodiumthat we risk losing. Journal of Global Antimicrobial Resistance, 3(2): 58-63.
  5. Spellberg, B., Guidos, R., Gilbert, D., Bradley, J., Boucher, H.W., Scheld, W.M., Bartlett, J.G., & Edwards, J. (2008). The epidemic of antibiotic-resistant infections: a call to action for the medical community from the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 46(2): 155-164.
  6. Wilkins, A.S. (1996). Antibiotic resistance: origins, evolution and spread. BioEssays, 18(10): 847-848.

By Akshata Y., Writer

Edited by James H., Editor

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Slimy Clumps of Bacteria Kill Thousands: Scientists Are Fighting Back

by Usha Lee McFarling / STAT News

It’s a battle that seems ripped from a sci-fi film: Scientists are racing to develop new weapons to destroy the slimy colonies of bacteria, known as biofilms, that cause tens of thousands of deaths across the US each year.

Biofilms are the leading cause of infections acquired in hospitals. They grow on medical devices such as heart valves, pacemakers, and catheters. They take root inside wounds, pulsing and rippling as they spread. Some even sprout tiny legs — and use them to walk across surfaces.


Encased in gooey protective sheaths, biofilms are exceptionally hard to stop. Many are impervious to antibiotics. They also cost the health care system billions each year, as patients often require surgery to remove and replace contaminated implants.

So researchers and biotech startups are testing new methods of attack, from coating medical devices with spiky coverings to blasting bacteria with electrical fields to interrupting the chemicals that cells inside biofilm colonies use to send messages to each other. Just this week, researchers at Ohio State announced they’d invented a way to coat the surfaces of medical devices (and shampoo bottles) with Y-shaped nanoparticles of quartz in a bid to block biofilms from latching on tight.

“The variety of things being tried is just amazing,” said Karin Sauer, a professor of biology at Binghamton University in New York who has been studying biofilms for 16 years. “People have to be extremely creative because biofilms are so difficult to eradicate.”

Here’s a look at the battle:

What Are Biofilms?

Unlike free-floating bacteria that drift in fluids, biofilms consist of bacteria that settle onto surfaces and begin to aggregate into large clumps surrounded by a protective coating of DNA, proteins, and polysaccharides — slime to you and me.

Biofilms are different from so-called superbugs, like MRSA, that have evolved a resistance to antibiotics. Each individual bacteria in a biofilm would, on its own, be susceptible to modern drugs. But when they clump together, the bacteria morph into complex 3-D structures.

Using a vocabulary of chemicals, the bacteria in the biofilms self-organize and divide up tasks, some growing and secreting slime, some dispersing to colonize new areas, and some hibernating until they are needed. The biofilm structures even contain channels to take in nutrients and expel waste.

“They communicate with each other and coordinate their activity,” Sauer said. “In a biofilm, you see cooperative behavior. It’s a lifestyle choice.”

Read the entire article

This is bio-cybernetics pure and simple. Adding noise to a communication channel is essential to digital communication. Here the same principle is applied to the vagus nerve, a feedback conduit between brain and soma/viscera.

The vagus nerve is a site of interest for the microbiome too - it’s a conduit between your brain and the ecosystem epi-effects of gut bacteria colonies. Active research indicates mood can be modulated by “reprogramming” (in the metaphorical sense) ones microbiome.

This exploit is far more straightforward and so much more biopunk by its close association with the grinding community

Is the Komodo Dragon Venomous?

It’s pretty well known that Komodo dragons have a rather unusual hunting technique. The huge lizards bite their prey once, then follow at a safe distance until their unfortunate victim inevitably collapses, finally attacking when the other animal is too weak to fight back. For a long time, this phenomenon was explained by a colony of bacteria that made their home in the Komodo’s mouth, which mixed with their saliva and was transferred into their prey’s bloodstream when they were bitten. What was harmless to the Komodos caused a kind of blood poisoning in their victim that weakened the animal until it finally succumbed to both the disease and the predator. 

At least, that was what was widely believed. Now, however, it has been discovered that it’s not a bacterium doing the harm - it’s the Komodo dragon’s own venom.

Researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia had the opportunity to examine the bodies of two zoo-bred Komodos that both had been put down as a result of terminal illnesses, as well as swab the mouths of several live specimens (which must have been really fun). What they discovered was that most of the microbes in the Komodo’s mouth (and yes, there are plenty) are harmless, and similar to those found in the mouths of many other species. In fact, there were less harmful strains, and less bacteria in general, than exist in the mouths of most predators. 

Next, they discovered the real reason the dragon’s bite is so deadly - two small venom glands located in the lower jaw, ones that had previously gone unnoticed due to their size and unusual placement. An analysis done of the substance found inside showed that it would in fact cause the symptoms seen in bite victims - a rapid drop in blood pressure, expedited blood loss, and an inability to form clots. This actually wasn’t that surprising to Bryan Frye, the lead researcher on the project. Apparently, several other types of lizards were recently proved venomous as well, including multiple other species of monitor lizard (and the iguana).

I suppose this shows why we should double-check scientific studies, as the entire basis for the bacteria theory was one observational study from the 1970′s.


Look at These Beautiful Planets JK They’re Bacteria From Public Buses

If you’re the kind of person who carries hand sanitizer everywhere you go, then you’re aware—maybe too aware—of the colonies of bacteria camped out on everything from gas pumps to ATM machines. Marco Castelli plays to your worst fears in his series A Micro Odyssey.

Oh sure, they look like photographs of distant planets. But they’re petri dishes awash in bacteria found in bank terminals, public buses and women’s bathrooms, photographed against pictures of the stars. Yet suspended in space, they are surprisingly beautiful. “It’s fantastic to let microorganisms meet stars,” Castelli says.

(Continue Reading)

Starter sentences - Phoenix Wright: Trials & Tribulations

“Well, we know whose milkshake brings all the boys to the yard…”
“How else would you get in?! Teleportation?!”
“Ah, the lamentations of my enemy… how I long for them…”
“Boy… this poor kid doesn’t have a clue…”
“Please try to set a better example for the young lady!”
“I thought I’d loosen you up a bit.”
“If anyone says anything rude you can be sure I’ll cut them down to size!”
“That’s supposed to be poetry? Sounds more like a mid-life crisis!”
“ In my personal opinion, he just looks like a typical snotty-nosed college brat.”
“It’s not hard to imagine him just snapping and screaming "Please dieeeee!”“
"Blacker than a moonless night, hotter and more bitter than hell itself… ”
“Men are like colonies of bacteria. The more heat you apply, the faster they grow.”
“ The truth has once again been elegantly revealed to me!”
“Unable to find a rival worthy of my genius, I was forced to create one by myself!”
“Times may change but people sadly do not.”
“Besides, Spaghetti is the only thing more tangled than your reasoning.”
“…Exactly. I’ve never lost. I’ve never won before either.”
“I don’t know how to put this, but the guy was a bit of a moneygrubber.”
“Please, stop leaning towards me like that.. ”
“Should I be grateful this coffee’s only hot enough to give me 1st degree burns…?”
“A single drop of milk is all it takes to destroy the pure black magic in the cup!”
“You’re saying that if something isn’t normal, it simply isn’t possible?”
“T-That coffee! It was laced with something I’m sure of it!”
“There’s no doubt about it. Behind that mask is someone who really hates me for some reason or another”
“Please, no intimidation tricks this time around”
“I already told you! That wasn’t me!”
“You can’t just "oops” your way out of this!“
" Quit playing on the Internet!”
“ Umm, would you mind taking a look at this?”
“Wow, he’s totally unfazed! Doesn’t anything intimidate this guy…?”

Keep reading